Gary Black, a tobacco industry analyst with the New York brokerage firm of Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., said the Portland decision shows that "the tide is turning.
The analyst said the Williams case is the fifth jury verdict against a tobacco company in an individual injury suit since the mid-1960s.
Three others were overturned on appeal.
The fourth, the San Francisco case, has been appealed, as the Portland case will be.
Tuesday's verdict is particularly significant because Oregon product liability laws are far tougher than those in California.
"The industry has got to recognize that . . . juries will increasingly favor the individual plaintiffs," he
said the industry has two choices: Reach a mass settlement for all individual claims or build the cost of continuing litigation into the price of cigarettes.
said Philip Morris
can well afford the cost of adverse verdicts.
The company sold 11.38 billion packs during 1998.
At that volume, he
said, the cost of the Williams decision comes to a penny a pack.
"If you had $10 billion in judgments in a year, the industry could raise prices by 50 cents a pack to cover that," he
said tobacco companies can look forward to years of suits.
"We've got a lot of incriminating documents, whistle-blowers you didn't have before and a lot of publicity associated with the (attorneys general) tobacco settlement," he